April 12, 2016

Monday, March 17, 2014

Shake Off the Winter Blahs with a Contest & Giveaway!

Writerly Friends, it has been exactly six weeks since Punxsutawney Phil correctly predicted more winter in our forecast. Last night and this morning, eight inches of fresh snow fell on central Maryland. How's that for accuracy?

She got it right. Sigh.
It can be a challenge to write when you have the blues, the winter blahs, the seasonal doldrums -- especially during this extra-long winter we've had on the East Coast.

Last month, we shook off the blahs by writing about color every day. All those lovely hues, plus a daily writing practice, motivated me and Author Amok readers to write 116 new poems.

This month, how about a writing contest to keep your creative juices pushing up through the snow-laden soil?

Last fall, I had a great time participating in one of Susanna Leonard Hill's online poetry contests (I even won a Halloweensie prize!) Susanna -- author of Punxsutawney Phyllis -- has another kid's lit contest coming up  this week for March Madness. She's stopping by to tell us all about it. And Susanna's been kind enough to donate a book to one lucky reader.

Welcome, Susanna!

A Fun Twist On Writing

Hi, Everyone! Laura very kindly invited me to guest post today because we have something fun to share with you.

If you're a writer, you're probably very familiar with the waiting game.


Wait (while you think and give your manuscript time to rest.)


Wait (as above.)

Revise some more.

Wait (as above.)


Wait (for an agent or editor to read...)

Wait some more (...because they're very busy...)

Wait some more (...and sometimes you eventually hear back from them, but sometimes you never do...)

It's tough isn't it?

Even if you're lucky enough to have a manuscript picked up, there will still be more waiting... for the contract... for the illustrator... for the galleys and proofs and F&Gs...  In the picture book world, 2 years from purchase to publication is considered speedy.

So much waiting!

This is just one of the reasons why I run writing contests on my blog a few times a year.  It's a chance for writers to practice their craft and share their work for immediate, positive, supportive feedback - no waiting :)  You get guidelines and a deadline. You get to write to specifications -- just as if you were targeting your story to a publishing house or magazine. You get to read lots of other writers' work. And there are prizes :) not the least of which is that you might end up with a great new story to submit.

The March Madness Contest that is about to run will begin on March 20 and run through March 31.  It is to be a fractured fairy tale for children, in poetry of prose, maximum length 400 words.  You can read full details here (  

First prize is a read and critique by well-known children's literary agent Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary!

I usually run another contest sometime in the summer, and I have annual contests at Halloween and during the Holidays. They're lots of fun, a respite from the waiting :) and I hope you'll all come and join in, either as contestants or as supportive readers for your fellow writers.

As you can see, two of the contests always revolve around holidays. I have two picture books that are holiday-related as well: PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS (Groundhog Day) and APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS! (April Fools Day), and Laura was interested in discussing how one finds a new twist on something as familiar as a holiday.  (This holds true for finding new twists on fairy tales too :))

I think it's all about changing things up in some way.

For example, PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS is about Groundhog Day, yes, but not the way one typically thinks about it.  Instead of having Punxsutawney Phil predict the coming of spring, I added a girl character who wanted to be Punxsutawney Phil but no one would take her seriously because she was a girl.  It was adding a feminist twist to Groundhog Day.

In APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS! I took advantage of Phyllis's weather predicting job and had her forecast a blizzard on April Fools Day.  Do you think anyone believed her? :)  I also added in a spring treasure hunt, which was something not necessarily typical of April Fools Day, and used it to heighten the tension - what would happen if all the little groundhogs were out on the treasure hunt and there really was a blizzard?

After today's storm, I believe
we COULD have snow on April 1.
Take something familiar and change the main character, the supporting characters, or the setting - place and/or time. Make up a plot that's unexpected for that holiday or fairy tale. Combine the holiday or fairy tale with a common childhood challenge.  Before you know it, you'll have something new and fresh!

I hope you'll all want to try your hand at it.  Come on over on March 20 and bring your stories :) [Note: Visit Susanna's blog for full contest info.]

Thank you so much for having me here today, Laura!  I hope I'll get to read an entry from you!

Thank you, Susanna. And thanks for giving away a copy of APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS! to one of our readers. If you'd like to be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment. I will announce the winner this week on Poetry Friday.

Susanna is the award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children's Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can't Sleep Without Sheep (a Children's Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom's Choice Award Winner.)  Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean.  Her newest book, Alphabedtime!, is forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Fall 2015.  She lives in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.

Socializing with other writers is another great way to fight the "a snow day again?" blues. Susanna does a great job of staying engaged with the kids' lit community. You can find and follow her all over the mediasphere:

Making Picture Book Magic (online writing course):

Let's close with the book trailer for April Fool, Phyllis!


Unknown said...

I'm giving it a try... 400 words huh?

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Yes, Juliana! Whose idea was that? I'm having a terrible time with my sample! :)

Laura, thank you SO much for inviting me over today! It's tons of fun to be here, and I hope to see entries from all your followers. Good luck with getting rid of that snow!

Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

That's exactly it - a respite from the waiting!

I'm lucky enough to own my very own signed copy of April Fool Phyllis - so please don't enter me in the draw.

Hoping I'll think of a great idea before the contest closes, but you can count on me to read all the terrific entries Susanna!

Author Amok said...

I've got queries out myself. I'd rather be writing than waiting. Thanks for the extra inspiration, Susanna. I may (I hope) have something for the contest.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Cathy, I hope you'll have an entry, but I do so appreciate you coming to read no matter what :) And Laura, I can't wait to read you entry! Now, if only I could think up a sample... :)